by Ramona Wadi
There’s no denying that Khan al-Ahmar has managed to generate and sustain international scrutiny. Since Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled there was no impediment to the demolition of the Bedouin village, the clamour over its impending demolition ranged from activist support to diplomatic engagement.
Even now, there are conflicting reports as to whether Israel will concede to an alternative, or implement the demolition order at a later date.
International activists’ solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar irked Israel, and their peaceful protests and attempts to barricade the village were met with Israeli military forces’ excessive violence and threatening tactics. Far removed from the safety in which diplomats are ensconced, activist presence in Khan al-Ahmar constituted a much more significant political act than the political jargon spouted from a distance by officials.
Recent news has hinted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might agree to relocating the village to a few hundred metres away, and grant it legal recognition. Two days earlier, he had stated that Khan al-Ahmar would be evacuated “with or without an agreement.”
But speculation over the alternative solution gained no traction. French president Emmanuel Macron appealed to Netanyahu to “permanently abandon” plans to destroy Khan al-Ahmar, suggesting the Israeli government has no intention of allowing the Bedouin community to retain their ancestral land and dwellings.
The European Union, along with the International Criminal Court and several non-governmental organisations, have stressed that forcibly displacing the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute.
It is more likely that Israel is delaying demolition, rather than hoping to reach an agreement. When the decision is made, the international community will not interfere; as the Bedouin community’s welfare and right to land is far removed from the diplomacy pursued by international institutions.
Indeed, the prevailing reason for leaders’ and officials’ opposition to Khan al-Ahmar’s demolition was tied to the two-state paradigm. The village’s location safeguards a very fragile contiguity, in the highly unlikely event that a negotiated deal is agreed upon.
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Israel earlier in October, she maintained that demolition of Khan al-Ahmar was “an Israeli decision.“
Only a few days earlier, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Europe of interference on Khan al-Ahmar, stating, “The idea that moving a group of some 100 people within a five-kilometre radius will prevent a resolution to such a complex historical conflict is hysterical nonsense.”
Tying the outcome of forcibly displacing a community to the chances of the two-state hypothesis is, in itself, an omission of duty as regards the international community’s purported commitment to safeguarding human rights.
It also allows prominent Israeli politicians such as Lieberman, to advance propaganda for colonial expansion.
The international community’s role is tethered to the two-state diplomacy, to the point that there is never an instance where violations are not analysed and criticised against such a backdrop. A self-serving interest in Khan al-Ahmar will not protect the rights of a community on the verge of displacement.
Both Israel and the international community can argue the case for geographical contiguity – the former to expand over Palestinian territory and the latter ostensibly to safeguard options for a future Palestinian state.
There is just one overlooked detail in this diplomatic narrative – the two-state imposition is no longer viable and has been declared obsolete by UN officials. In framing Khan al-Ahmar as part of the two-state discourse, the international community is granting Israel the freedom to advance its colonisation.
This is not to say there are no territorial aspirations from the Palestinian people. However, the international community’s intent is to help the Palestinian Authority, which is amenable to pursuing an obsolete paradigm, while leaving a trail of neglected violations against Palestinians in its wake. Khan al-Ahmar is no exception to this tactic.
Palestinians’ territorial aspirations are linked to historic Palestine, not the two-state framework. In the absence of a plan towards land reclamation, the Palestinian struggle has also morphed into communities protecting their own territory to safeguard their existence. Their resistance has nothing to do with the international community’s impositions and forced compromise, which is now a demand incumbent on all Palestinians due to leadership acquiescence.
Israel’s settlement expansion is a political process. It replaces the indigenous population with a settler enterprise, and as a result, the humanitarian situation faced by Khan al-Ahmar’s community cannot be isolated from the political process.
Yet, Israel has orchestrated such a move by giving the residents two options: to move either to a site in the vicinity of a garbage dump near Abu Dis, or to another site close to a sewage plant in Jericho.
The EU’s main contention with Israel is over destruction of projects it has funded for Palestinians which seek to alleviate the humanitarian impact of Israel’s violations. Israel’s actions and the EU’s responses can be construed as a collaborative effort to divert the political focus away from Khan al-Ahmar.
Yet, the impending demolition and the community’s displacement necessitate a political solution, and one in which the community makes its own demands, away from the lesser expectations enforced by international organisations.
If the community is eventually displaced, the damage done to the two-state hypothesis will not be worth discussing due to the already established consensus regarding the impossibility of its implementation.
It will, however, raise questions as to how leaders and international institutions failed to politicise Palestinian rights. By failing to acknowledge and promote the demands of Khan al-Ahmar’s community, the EU, along with other institutions, aligned itself with Israel’s demands.
Despite references to the Rome Statute to define Israel’s actions as a war crime, the international community’s political manipulation rendered the villagers absent from their own plight.
Even if the two-state compromise had not been declared obsolete, the international community has exhibited contempt for the Palestinians’ political demands in order to preserve its own agenda and relevance.
Khan al-Ahmar’s residents have been degraded by Israel merely for living on land coveted for its settlers. For the international community to exploit the forthcoming forced displacement in order to further the two-state rhetoric as the only purported solution, is enough indication of where Palestinians find themselves as regards priorities and responsibilities in the name of human rights.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence, and the manipulation of international law. Reprinted, with permission, from The New Arab.